Ballina will be seeing former US presidents coming to the north Mayo town to speak at the proposed Mary Robinson Centre.
Susan Heffernan, project manager for the centre, told this week’s meeting of the Ballina Municipal District: “Events like last October’s International Human Rights lecture, they will grow every year. It will bring world leaders to Ballina to speak to the local community and academics.
"Last October’s event just under 200 people attended from all over Ireland. On Mary’s invitation list for the future we have former presidents and vice presidents of the US, these people are checking their diaries to get a date that is convenient for them to come to Ballina and give an address. It’s a huge coup for Ballina. If we bring former presidents of the US here, we will have full houses of people to come and see them speak.”
Ms Heffernan was speaking at the meeting to give an update to the elected members on the progress of the centre. The meeting was told that the part eight planning permission was due to go before Mayo County Council in April, and it was hoped that if all things went to plan, contractors would be on the ground in early 2016 with the centre opening in April 2017.
Outlining the council’s part in the project director of services for Mayo County Council, Paul Benson, told the members: “Our role is to bring it to part eight planning, and assuming everything else is in place to deliver the building the same way as we did with the arts centre in the town. We are putting together a project team for the project to cover all the building works, it should be in place before May and the part eight should before the council in April.” He continued: “We expect design work would be six to eight months, then we would tender the project with a view to having tenders open early in 2016 and having the contractor appointed soon after, with a view to having the building open in around April 2017.”
He also told the meeting that the submissions on the part eight would close in late March, with a report on the submissions and issues raised being completed after that.
The Mary Robinson Centre will be Ireland’s first presidential library and will be homed in Victoria House in Ballina, which will be owned by Mayo County Council and leased to the trust that will run the centre. The centre will house some 500 storage boxes of archival material from Mary Robinson’s life, which will also be digitised and available online for academics and researchers to peruse. The archive has been gifted by Mary Robinson to the people of Mayo through the national archive and the State, and will be held for the people by Mayo County Council, to ensure it stays in public ownership.